Please welcome today’s guest writer, Helen Groothuis. Helen graduated in 2017 with a writing degree. Naturally, she worked as a delivery driver for a year before moving to her current abode in London, England to pursue a master’s degree in screenwriting. When she’s not clamoring to finish her work on time, you can find her taking in the latest figure skating competition—despite having no skating prowess whatsoever (seriously, she can barely stand on two feet). You can follow her further exploits in London over at helengroothuisblog.wordpress.com.
If you had told thirteen-year-old Helen that in ten years she would be living in England, let alone London, I think she might have fainted in disbelief.
Lo and behold, I am writing this piece from my flat in northwest London, where I moved to attend graduate school and to be near my long-time boyfriend. I guess some dreams do come true.
Many Americans like me have grown up with an idealized version of Great Britain in our heads. After all, it has produced some of the greatest fantasy literature of all time, its inhabitants speak with the loveliest of accents, and there is even a royal family for us to fawn over.
I’d visited London a couple of times and did all the touristy things before I made to the decision to move there. It wasn’t until this past September that I started to realize what living here and making a home for myself would really entail.
The London Underground is one of the easiest things you will ever learn how to use. Seriously, it took me longer to set up my new printer than it did to decipher “the Tube.” The various lines have distinct names and colors, making planning a journey that much easier. Although trains can get a bit crowded at peak times, oftentimes it serves as an opportunity to de-stress—especially on days when I can nab a seat.
For all its mangled, sprawling glory, central London (aka the tourist bit) is easy to navigate by walking. Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the London Eye are within an hour’s walk of each other, and countless other destinations are tucked in between.
One of my favorite things about London, however, is that almost every street yields something new and exciting. I like to wander through various streets in my spare time, and it’s quite easy since they all feed into each other. On one little enclave I found a shop that makes the most delicious cupcakes; on another, a shop that specializes in Tintin comics. I think I officially considered myself a resident when I could get to a set destination without necessarily having a direct path planned.
Many things here have been new and exciting, and that’s amazing. But there are some things that I dearly miss about life in America.
With the recent passing of Thanksgiving, I was reminded just how much I am missing in being away from my family. Yes, there’s Skype and text, but there really is nothing like being in my childhood home with the people I love enjoying a meal we all prepared. Thanksgiving can be tough for anyone who can’t make it home to their loved ones, but for me it was exacerbated by the fact that Thanksgiving is not celebrated in the United Kingdom. For all intents and purposes, it was a normal Thursday where I was working on homework while everyone at home was having a good time.
Luckily, my boyfriend has been extremely supportive in moments where I am feeling that deep sense of longing, and my family has even sent me some American goodies ahead of their visit next year. Additionally, the American students at my university planned a Thanksgiving get-together—it turns out we’re all a bit homesick.
Change is exciting and moving to my dream city is nothing less. Despite the lows I’ve felt since moving here, I’m thankful for all the highs and even the mediums that have far eclipsed them. I know that I’m on the right path, and I’ve got people who love me both here and back in Michigan rooting for me the whole way. I’m happy to call London my home, and I hope it will be for years to come.